Memory.

So yesterday my friend Matt in Williamsport, Pa and I were catching up on the phone. Text messages can take a conversation only so far, it’s best when during those times when you can’t meet in person that you can at least talk on the phone. We got to talking about our shared OCD tendencies, as we both tend to eat our food one thing at a time. For example, all the meat, all the potatoes and then all the vegetables, or whatever. We both agreed that our food can touch, that’s just fine, we just eat one thing at a time. Apparently I’m further up the spectrum than he is because I will disassemble hot subs or sandwiches and salads. It drives Earl crazy. When presented with a meatball sub, I eat all the meatballs first then I eat the bread. When eating a salad I eat all the tomatoes, then all the cucumbers, then all the peppers, then I finally get to the lettuce. It’s just the way I eat and I’ve always eaten this way. I’m not finicky, I’m just organized. Matt has labels on his light switches, so there’s our OCD trade-off.

This got me to thinking about some of my idiocyncracies that I’m aware of (I’m sure there are more that I don’t even realize that I’m doing) and then wondering about my steel-trap memory and observational powers. I notice things. I notice patterns, I notice changes in rhythm, I notice changes in appearance and I can easily follow a process. I think this has helped my computer-based career over the years as I can easily spot abnormalities. For example, if a pre-programmed routine is suppose to run every day at a certain time, I will instantly notice if something is amiss. I’ve been telling our Database Administrators that a completion email for a daily routine has been arriving 12-15 minutes late for the past two weeks. They say don’t worry about it. I tell them that something has to be off because the emails are arriving later. Computers don’t get lazy, something is impeding normal progress. Today the process finally failed. Something changed. They’re looking into it.

The process and consistency of computing devices, especially vintage devices, fascinate me. My initial interest in computing was sparked by the slow conversion of mechanical to electronic cash registers at grocery and department stores over the 1970s. I remember being fascinated by the space-age looking Singer-Friden cash registers at Sears and Roebuck (the first of their kind, by the way). When our local grocery store, the P&C converted to electronic cash registers in 1978 I was blown away. They were so cool. I watched cashiers do their thing and I learned the process of how the cash registers worked, even at 10 years old. In 1980, P&C hosted a “Food Fiesta” at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. The Center of Progress building was populated with food vendors giving tasting samples. There were cooking classes. And in one aisle, there was a display of the checkouts at your local P&C Food Store and the public could stand behind the counter, spin the counter belt and try ringing up items. It was 1980. I was 12 years old. I watched a couple of adults try to keep running the cash register and they couldn’t make it work. The “ERROR >” light kept lighting up on the display. The problem was easily apparent, the man was pushing the decimal key when he was trying to enter an item for 99 cents (this was before scanning was popular). He said the cash register was broken. A P&C representative started walking over to the register but I beat them to the cash register. I then hit CLEAR and promptly rang up about 75 items at rapid speed, using advanced functions such as split pricing, multiple departments, food stamp exceptions, taxable items and the like. I even added a few store coupons and double vendor coupons to the order before punching in split tender – so much in cash and so much in a personal check. The order completed, the receipt was ejected from the top and the cash drawer popped open. I kept the receipt as a souvenir. The P&C representative and the few adults around me all asked, “how in the world do you know how to do that”? I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

My steel trap memory and my ability to observe. I should have put that super power to good use.

As I was formulating this blog entry in my head earlier today, I got to doodling on my work notebook and sure enough, I was able to draw this, and several other like it, out. From memory. 

This is the layout of a Data Terminal Systems Series 400 (actually model 440) cash register keyboard in 1980 in a grocery store configuration. There’s only one button I can’t remember.


I probably should use my powers for something useful someday.

Inspiration.


Steve Jobs died six years ago today. The man was a visionary, a genius, and an inspiration for many. I believe the DNA of his vision lives on today at Apple. 

They took away my Mac at work this week in an effort to remove all Macs from the work network. Honestly, I feel a little let down. My new laptop works but it brings me little joy. I’ve gone from a luxury car to a bus. I feel like I’m typing with my elbows. 
I needed to feel inspired again. Knowing the genius thinking behind the vision that Steve had of the future, I visited the site of the newest Apple flagship store which opens in two weeks. It will be a destination. It will being a sense of community. Senior VP of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, is an inspiration to me as well. I love her energy. 
Inspiration. Pass it on. #applefanboy

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Star Trek: Used.

So Earl and I watched the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” this evening. I signed up for the trial of CBS All Access, the streaming service required to see the latest Star Trek television series in the United States, as the series won’t be shown on regular TV and it isn’t available on the other streaming services everyone else uses.

There may be a few spoilers in the rest of this entry, so if you’re interested but haven’t seen the episodes yet, you may want to stop reading now.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

I’m not going to get into a heavy dialog about the plot details of the first two episodes of the series but rather just make some observations. As a life-long Trekker, I’ve enjoyed every iteration of the Trek franchise, aside from the latest Star Trek Movie. I feel connected to Star Trek. The vibe of Star Trek, especially Star Trek: Next Generation, has always given me hope that someday humanity would find our place amongst the stars.

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery take place on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, with Captain Philippa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh. First Officer Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green is at her side. She is Captain Georgiou’s Number One. Her protege. Her friend. I found myself connecting very easily to Captain Georgiou. I liked her commanding style, I liked her balance of ingenuity and diplomacy. As a viewer I found myself invested in the character. I was thinking, “yeah, she’s as cool as Janeway!”.

There were elements of the first two episodes that helped cement that we were in the Star Trek universe. The communicators sounded the same as The Original Series. The doors “whooshed” with the same sound effect. The transporter, when energized, sounded familiar. But the show does fail my Star Trek Transporter Effect test in that the special effects used are very Harry Potter looking. There’s glittering gold and wispy fairy dust going on. It’s illogical that a device used to transporter matter from point A to point Z as an energy beam would have wispy fairy dust sparkling about. How do we not know that wispy pixie dust isn’t part of a toe or an arm or some vital internal organ? It doesn’t go with the rest of the person being beamed in or out. And Federation transporter beams are white, Klingon transporter beams are orange.

And thankfully Discovery opened up with the word “Klingon” on the bottom of the screen because these aliens looked nothing like Klingons. They also sounded nothing like Klingons. They spoke Klingon, at length in episode two, but the Klingons are not the Klingons we’ve known from before. I could live with that, because Captain Georgiou was handling the situation quite well. I found First Office Burnham getting on my nerves by the second episode. She was a little too know-it-all, her upbringing on Vulcan notwithstanding. I just found her grating. I felt no investment in the character. 

Then in the last five minutes there’s a huge twist and my investment, or lack thereof, in the characters on the U.S.S. Shenzhou was for naught. In the last five minutes of the show “Star Trek: Discovery” slides into “Star Trek: Millenial Strife” and the screen goes to black. After a few mandatory commercials, because after all, we’re suppose to PAY for CBS: All Access, an extended trailer ensues showing more Millenial Strife with the annoying Michael Burnham, a new ship, a new captain and lots and lots of battle scenes and talk about war.

The most Star Trek moments of the first two episodes: walking on a desert planet learning and discovering, attempts at negotiation, a seemingly true bond between a very capable Captain and her First Officer, are all just part of an extended back story. Episode three is apparently “like watching a new pilot”, per the show runner. The only way you’ll see it is if you absolutely pay for CBS: All Access.

Which I absolutely will not do.

I have no interest in watching a “Star Trek” series loaded up with extended space battles, dark cutaways, and lots and lots of Millenial Strife. It’s not my thing. 

I’m sorry, Captain Georgiou, I was really liking the idea of an Asian female captain at the helm of a Federation starship. I wanted to watch you find your groove. I wanted to see where you would boldly go. And I think Michelle Yeoh was the biggest asset to the show to date. Her character was worth my investment. 

And that investment has been cashed out.

Space.

With all the problems we have in our own country, the United States doesn’t seem as excited about space exploration as we were when I was kid, or even when the Space Shuttle Program was running. I am thoroughly fascinated by it and I follow many astronauts on Twitter and read up on the International Space Station when I have a few moments.

One of the best vacations Earl and I had together was when we visited the Space Center in Houston. I’ve been watching tours of the International Space Station ever since, here’s one from 2016.

I really think man’s future is in space. I want to see a “Star Trek” (Gene Roddenberry’s vision, not “millennial strife in space”) reality come to fruition.

I hope at least a few of us always remember to reach for the stars.

Day 3.

Earl and I have been sleeping on an air mattress since closing on the condo on Wednesday morning. Our new mattress doesn’t arrive until Monday; the other pieces arrived yesterday but the mattress is trailing along. It’s fine and sleeping on the air mattress isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

It was about 10:30 PM of the night we moved in when we discovered that the washing machine in our condo has some really bad bearings. The washer works fine but it sounds much like the Space Shuttle at take-off when it’s spinning. Earl and I walked the length of the building during the spin cycle and you can hear our washing spinning from one end of the building to the other.

What a great way to impress our new neighbors.

Tonight we ordered a new washer and matching dryer at The Home Depot. The units will be delivered on Thursday; we’ll limit our laundry activities to daylight hours in the meanwhile.

We have been living the “big city life” since starting the move in on Wednesday and every minute has been pure bliss. I love being able to walk where I need to go. I love having things to do within walking distance. Earl and I are slowly exploring the nooks and crannies of our neighborhood and we’ve been visiting some places in nearby neighborhoods as well. Yesterday we experienced Illinois’ version of the DMV. The Jeeps have new license plates but the driver licenses will have to wait until our next attempt of such an adventure, which will probably take place in a couple of weeks. Luckily, Illinois gives us 90 days to transfer our driver’s license.

Three days in Chicago has taken me away from social media a bit and honestly that’s a wonderful thing. When living in Central New York we often turned to social media for entertainment. There’s just so much to do in The Windy City that I’m finding that I don’t turn to Twitter to see what chaos is happening in the world. I’ve been keeping friends and family updated on Facebook with an update here and there. I’m still not a fan of Facebook but because so many folks are using it, it’s the easiest way to reach out to family and friends. I keep trying to drive them to the blog but having a blog seems so 2001.

By the way, this blog turned 16 years old this week. I’ve been updating this blog since 2001, when I first wrote about flying with my Dad in his Acrosport II for the first time and going to the Field Days (town carnival) in my hometown.

My blog was on the leading edge in 2001. In 2017 it definitely feels like it’s on the trailing edge. Why march in step with the crowd when you hear a completely different song?

Siri.

Apple has released a new extended ad starring Dwayne Johnson featuring all the things Siri can do. I know that Siri gets a bad rap in the tech community, with many touting that Alexa and Google Home can do much more, but I’m still a fan of Siri. She doesn’t want to sell me anything, she just wants to help.

Living Unconnected.

Speaker Simon Sinek speaks about the benefits of turning your phone off and putting it completely away when you’re interacting with people in real life. I need to do this more. I need to be better at this. This is my July 30 day self-challenge.

Dynamite.

In January 1977 we entered room 205 for another Monday of third grade and found a substitute teacher sitting behind the desk. Mrs. Delaney, our regular teacher, would be out sick for the following five weeks as she recovered from emergency gall bladder surgery. Even at age 9 I found this a little surprising since Mrs. Delaney was a young woman. Young pretty teachers don’t get sick. Old people have problems with their gall bladder. She was recently married, in fact, before our class had begun in September she was known as Miss Heilig. She was a pretty blonde woman and she had a tolerance of my odd ways. She accepted the fact that I would speed through every piece of homework and exam at warp speed. She never scolded me for turning in my paper first. She couldn’t figure out why I added numbers the way I did but it worked and she let me do it that way.

Quick aside: posed with a question like “8+7”, I would adjust it to a 10 before blurting out “15”. So in little competitive games to see who could add the fastest, she would say “8+7” and I would yell out “8+7, 9+6, 10+5, 15”. This would bewilder my competitor and while they were trying to count sticks in their head or whatever, I was whipping through this rapid, machine-gun way of adding and I would win a chocolate bar. That was always nifty. This trend sticks with me today.

Anyway, Mrs. Delaney was out sick and behind the desk sat Mrs. Davis. She wore a dress. Her old lady hair was quite red with some help and in the perfect old lady style. Though she retired many years ago she had a reputation throughout the district, young and old, as a taskmistress. She put up with no bunk. She did not tolerate a lack of obedience. Students will keep their desks neat and tidy. Mrs. Delaney had an unused paddle emblazoned with “Board of Education” hanging alongside the chalk board. Mrs. Davis didn’t need such a thing, she just slammed the ruler down if there was any sort of lack of attention. WAP! Even the most misbehaved boy in our class, another boy named John, who in later years would spend some time in prison, wept at the thought of Mrs. Davis teaching for an undetermined amount of time. I just did what I was told.

Mrs. Davis was known as “Dynamite Davis”. The woman could explode. She had a raspy yell that garnered the attention of people within a five mile radius. Even my dad and aunt talked about Dynamite Davis and they had been out of school for many years. The woman was a local legend.

I ran into Dynamite Davis years after I graduated from high school and had a pleasant conversation with her on a Sunday evening in a local restaurant. In elementary school she terrified me (but inspired me to stay the honor student I was at the time) and she was no nonsense but like Mrs. Delaney, she rode with me on my little idiosyncrasies and encouraged me to do what I needed to do to get to the right answer. She never scolded me for being the first one to turn in an exam or quiz. She had a hard look and a scary voice but she was alright. When we chatted years later she remembered me, my aunt and my dad and she had a nice old-lady smile. Like many teachers, she remembered details. “You always watched that clock.”

Inexplicably I enjoyed a very vivid dream about her last night. Like many of my dreams of people that have passed on, it felt uncannily real, she encouraged me to continue to do my best and smirked about the way I still add in my head. (The 8+7, 9+6, 10+5 15 routine drives Earl crazy). We had a normal conversation. I could smell her perfume. Her voice had softened slightly. She told me she doesn’t understand what schools are doing today with our youth and that we need to get back to a more disciplined environment in school districts. I asked her if we could take a selfie together so I could show the community that she is quite happy on The Other Side. She agreed, we laughed, we posed together and of course I couldn’t get my iPhone to work. That always happens when I try to take a selfie in a dream.

I woke up with my iPhone in my hand, camera activated. I was still smiling. The scent of Dynamite’s perfume was dissipating rapidly.

Who knew that the famous Dynamite Davis could make me smile?

Disassembly.

One of the first things I needed to do to prepare the house for our move is remove the school clock collection from the walls.


I was a bit hesitant to do this as I didn’t remember how many holes had been drilled to get the wiring to the clocks.


No two clocks in the collection are identical. Look carefully.


Most of the clocks are moving with us. Those that don’t move will be relocated to good homes where I know they’ll be well taken care of. 


I’m really excited about this next step in our adventure together.